Monday, January 3, 2011
Sugar Bowl keys for Ohio State
By Adam Rittenberg
Let's look at three keys for Ohio State in Tuesday night's matchup against Arkansas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
1. Remain united: We've seen what happens to teams that enter bowl games with the wrong mind-set, and it ain't pretty. Ohio State has had to deal with the suspensions distraction for the past 10 days, and the fact that marquee players like Terrelle Pryor are involved doesn't help matters. But the Buckeyes have a large group of seniors and good overall leadership. They need those voices to be heard in the locker room and make sure the team focuses on the task at hand -- beating Arkansas and ending all the talk of 0-9 against the SEC in bowls.
2. Bend but don't break: Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas offense will move the ball and make plays in the pass game. But Ohio State is extremely stingy near the goal line, leading the Big Ten and tying for seventh nationally in red zone defense (70.4 percent scores). The Buckeyes have allowed only five passing touchdowns in the red zone and only 27 red zone opportunities. So it's imperative for Ohio State to make Arkansas work on every scoring drive and prevent explosion plays.
3. Get Boom and run game going: Pryor's performance is always important, but Dan Herron might be the key to this game for Ohio State. Herron was exceptional down the stretch in Big Ten play, establishing himself as one of the league's better featured running backs. Arkansas' defense is average against the run, ranking 66th nationally (157.4 ypg allowed), so Ohio State's offensive line will have opportunities to get Herron going, control the clock and keep Mallett on the sideline.